Heather Paisar

I began my organ playing career as a part-time organist at my home church of Redeemer Lutheran in Plymouth, Wisconsin, when I was only twelve years old. Though I began as a pianist, I was quickly drawn to the organ and was deeply moved by the role I could play in worship and, in particular, memorial services. Always a pragmatic child, I quickly realized that learning to play the organ had many long-term benefits, and I decided to concentrate on both piano and organ when I went to college.

I received my B.M. in Church Music from Valparaiso University in 2006. During my time at Valpo I had the privilege of studying organ with Dr. Lorraine Brugh and harpsichord and piano with Dr. Joseph Bognar. I also played horn in the orchestra. After graduating, I was torn between entering the Peace Corps and going on to graduate school; however, after gaining acceptance to Emory University’s endowed organ program (and experiencing Atlanta’s winter weather in comparison to that of the Midwest), I decided to head south. I completed my Masters in Sacred Music degree in 2008. From there I moved to Lawrence, Kansas to work on a DMA in organ performance and a PhD in historical musicology. In addition to working with the talented Drs. Michael Bauer and James Higdon, I had the amazing opportunity to work with the East Hill Singers, a nonprofit group that brings choral singing to minimum-security inmates in Leavenworth, Kansas.

After finishing the coursework for my DMA and PhD, I moved to the Bay Area in 2012 to be with my now-husband, Harpreet, and to work on my dissertation. The last few years have been a whirlwind; we picked up and moved to Seattle for two years and I spent a year in Oklahoma as a music history professor at Oklahoma State University. We returned to the Bay Area and settled in Oakland in 2016, and we are both looking forward to staying in one place for the foreseeable future!

As a musician I have had the honor of working with numerous professional and amateur choral groups throughout the United States and abroad. Though I, in general, prefer collaborative work to solo performances, I have played solo concerts through the U.S., as well as England, Germany, and France. My area of specialty is early Spanish and Portuguese organ music, but if you ask me my favorite composer, the answer will always be Bach.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading about anything and everything (but mostly history), gardening, cooking elaborate homemade meals (especially Indian!), and learning about and drinking wine. In March of last year, Harpreet and I bought our first home together and I spend a lot of my spare time decorating and organizing (Marie Kondo has nothing on me!). My most favorite activity is enjoying a lazy, coffee-filled Saturday morning with Harpreet and our three crazy dogs, Stella, Sophie, and Frankenstein. I am excited to be a part of First Lutheran and am looking forward to making wonderful music together with the choir and congregation!